Translating the Gospel in Viking Age England: The Evidence from Two Old Norse Loan Translations from Old English
Anglia: Zeitschrift fuer Englische Philologie
A recent resurgence of interest in Old Norse linguistic borrowings in Old English has greatly expanded our knowledge of the contact situation between these two speech communities in the early medieval period and beyond. How- ever, there are a significant number of words that have been considered borrow- ings in the “other” direction, i. e. from Old English to Old Norse, which have not attracted the same amount of attention in current scholarship. Much of this mate- rial requires reassessment and this paper provides a case study of two parallel compound formations in both languages – OE bærsynnig [mann]/ON bersynðugr [maðr] (‘one who is openly sinful; publican’), and OE healsbōc/ON hálsbók (‘phy- lactery, amulet, lit. ‘neck-book’) – that have traditionally been considered loan translations from Old English to Old Norse with little evidence other than their formation from cognate elements. In the absence of clear-cut linguistic criteria for identifying loan translations between these two closely related languages, this paper draws on a range of literary evidence to argue for a strong likelihood of a relationship between the two compounds. Both words offer important evidence for biblical translation practices, and contribute to our knowledge about the Christianisation of Norse speaking peoples and Anglo-Norse language contact in Viking Age England.
Old English, Old Norse, Medieval Literature, Medieval Language, Translation, Language Contact, Multilingualism, Historical Linguistics, English Language, Viking Age, Medieval England, Medieval Scandinavia, Viking Age England, Viking Age Scandinavia